Firefly Toys & Games, a local family game store located in northwest Columbia, is a go-to for USC students looking to connect with the local gaming community or to purchase retro video and board games.
A main attraction is the gaming space that occupies a large portion of the interior of the store. This space is where most of the board game and tabletop role-playing game events are hosted at Firefly.
They also host family game nights to appeal to a wider audience and include casual players and a greater age range.
“We’re a family-oriented store," Firefly employee Robbie Wise said.
To ensure everyone feels welcome, Firefly has a clean language policy. According to Wise, who has worked at Firefly for seven years, they are "pretty strict" on that rule, as making everyone feel comfortable is one of their biggest goals.
Regular customer and gamer Frank Knox said playing at Firefly "really is like 'Cheers,'" a sitcom about a Boston bar "where everybody knows your name."
Wise said he thinks the community is the most important thing at Firefly and that is "why a lot of people like us, because they can come meet and play."
Knox said in all his time spent at the store, there has always been something going on. Pinball
machines in the arcade are a big draw for him at Firefly. Prior to COVID-19, the store hosted weekly events for pinball tournaments and card and role-playing games, but safety concerns led to their indefinite cancellation.
One of the events Firefly runs to foster its community is a charity marathon that takes place once a year through an organization known as Extra Life. Wise said it is 24 hours of gaming with silent auctions, prizes and other fundraising opportunities taking place throughout.
"We've raised thousands upon thousands of dollars the years we've done it, specifically for our children's hospital in Columbia," he said.
Firefly's board game demo shelf is something that distinguishes it from similar stores. Although currently closed due to COVID-19, this shelf displays opened board games that people might want to try playing before they make the decision to purchase them outright. This type of display alleviates the common frustration of blindly buying a new game only to find out on the first play that it is not the right game for your group.
As for the retail section of Firefly, there are plenty of options for any video game or tabletop game enthusiast. The store's used game section consists of games for almost any video game console, new and old.
These games and accessories are available for every generation of the Playstation and Xbox, NES, SNES, N64, Switch, Wii, DS, Genesis and Dreamcast.
Firefly holds a large selection of role-playing games with all the necessary products for playing a D&D or Warhammer campaign on sale.
John Roberts, who works in shipping and receiving at Firefly, said when new products come out that customers are looking forward to, they can put in an order with the store to ensure they can get a hold of it.
“We know a lot of the customers on a first-name basis, and so I think that kind of makes the difference,” Roberts said.
Card games are also on sale, with brand new cards for popular games such as Pokemon and Magic available. Toys such as Legos, board games and miscellaneous toys for all ages round out what is available to purchase at Firefly.
"If you express an interest, people will literally stop and explain the game and tell you what it's about," Knox said.
Located on St. Andrews Road in Columbia, Firefly Games is at its third store location since starting at a 4,500 square foot shop in Lexington. It has expanded over the past decade, and the current location has 18,000 square feet, with over half of it dedicated to the store's play space for board, card and role-playing games, Wise said.
In addition to what they have available in-store, Firefly will carry out personal orders for specific customer requests.